Below is the text of Mr Major’s response on the Child Poverty Action Group made on 15th February 1990 in the House of Commons.
Mr. Marten Jones To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he last met representatives of the Child Poverty Action Group to discuss taxation.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. John Major) I have not met them as a Treasury Minister.
Mr. Jones When the Chancellor meets representatives of the group, I hope that he will have some good news for them on child benefit which, as he knows, is the best way to give support to families on low incomes. I hope that he will raise child benefit in line with inflation because, as he knows, it has been eroded since 1987 when his Government’s manifesto commitment was to “pay it as now”. Surely that should not mean to pay it as it was paid in monetary terms, but that it should be uprated in line with inflation. I hope that the Chancellor will take that point on board in his next Budget and put that right.
Mr. Major I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his views. As he knows, we have a statutory obligation to review child benefit every year before the public expenditure round, and that has occurred. On the point about the freeze on child benefit in the past two years, the hon. Gentleman knows that there has been a compensating increase in income support and family credit, precisely to meet the point about low pay to which he referred.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman When considering the answer that he has just given, will my right hon. Friend bear it in mind that quite a number of his colleagues, let alone Opposition Members, feel strongly that child benefit is the only income of some women, who appreciate its being uprated whenever possible?
Mr. Major I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reminder. As she knows, child benefit was introduced by the present Government and at present costs £4.5 billion, all of which is paid to the wife.
Mrs. Beckett Surely all that the Chancellor needs to say when he meets the Child Poverty Action Group is that, as the social security Minister who gave the pledge in the manifesto about child benefit, he feels morally bound to uprate it in line with inflation?
Mr. Major It is always a pleasure to have advice from the hon. Lady, although it may be that I do not get quite as much advice from her as her right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith). Nevertheless, I am pleased with the advice that she has given and shall certainly bear it in mind if I meet Miss Fran Bennett and her colleagues.